5 key new policies for foreigners in Vietnam this year

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 Motorcyclists ride at a residential quarter in Hanoi. The amendments to the Law on Housing, which took effect July 1, allow foreigners with valid visas and international organizations operating in Vietnam to buy up to 30 percent of an apartment building or 250 houses in a ward -- a subdistrict-level administrative area. Photo: AFP
Here are some major policies related to foreigners and overseas Vietnamese that have been introduced by the Vietnamese government this year. 
1. Visa exemption for foreign visitors
In an explicit gesture to resuscitate the ailing tourism sector, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung signed off on visa waivers for five more nationalities, a move highly welcomed by industry insiders.
Under a decision dated June 17, Vietnam has offered visa exemptions for single-entry visits of up to 15 days for visitors from Germany, France, the UK, Italy, and Spain starting July 1.
The country now also waives visas for single-entry visits for Danish, Finnish, Japanese, Norwegian, Russian, South Korean, Belarusian, and Swedish nationals, until 2019.
2. Visa exemption for Viet kieu and family
A government decree, which was issued on September 24 and took effect on November 15, has allowed overseas Vietnamese, or Viet kieu, their foreign spouses and children to visit Vietnam without having to apply for a visa.
Foreign family members of Vietnamese citizens also benefit from the policy.
They are only required to have a passport that is valid for at least one year and present related identification documents to visa agencies in their areas.
A visa-waiver certificate will then be issued, with validity of up to five years.
Foreigners in Vietnam can apply for the certificate at the Immigration Department at the Ministry of Public Security.
3. Expanded foreign property ownership
The amendments to the Law on Housing, which took effect July 1, relaxed the rules on foreign ownership of property.
The changes allow foreigners with valid visas and international organizations operating in Vietnam to buy up to 30 percent of an apartment building or 250 houses in a ward -- a subdistrict-level administrative area.
The old law restricted ownership to foreigners married to Vietnamese and those foreigners deemed to have made significant contributions to the nation’s development. 
Many foreigners have welcomed the new law. More than 400 transactions from foreign buyers have reportedly been posted since July.
4. Duty-free shopping on Vietnam-bound flights
Since November 1, airline passengers have been able to purchase duty-free goods on Vietnam-bound flights, according to a Prime Minister’s decision.
Previously, businesses were only allowed to sell duty-free goods at international airports in Vietnam and onboard flights that depart from the country.
With the new rule, passengers only have to present their passport and boarding pass, whereas the flight attendants will take full record of their information such as their names and the numbers of their passport, flight and seat.
5. New foreign ownership caps
A decree, which took effect on September 1, allows foreign investors to buy up to 100 percent of stocks at many listed companies.
The decree came at a time when many companies had already reached their limits, including IT giant FPT and dairy producer Vinamilk.
Previously, foreigners were allowed to own up to 49 percent of stakes in Vietnamese firms, and 30 percent in banks.
Although the new rule retains the foreign ownership cap for banks, limits are removed in most other sectors.

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